Ship assistant engineer


Ship assistant engineers assist the ship chief engineer and the ship duty engineer in the operations of the ship’s hull. They support the operation of the main engines, steering mechanism, electrical generation and other major subsystems. They communicate with maritime engineers about the performance of technical operations. They also ensure appropriate safety and regulatory standards compliance and are able to take on higher level positions if needed.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to ship assistant engineer:

junior ship engineer
assistant shipping engineer
third assistant engineer
shipping assistant engineer
second assistant engineer
assistant ship engineer
assistant maritime engineer
maritime assistant engineer
junior engineer
junior chief engineer

Minimum qualifications

A bachelor’s degree in marine engineering, marine technology, or a related field is generally required to work as a ship assistant engineer. These programs typically include courses in marine propulsion, marine systems, marine mechanics, marine hydraulics, marine electronics and marine engineering design.

Many marine engineers also have an associate’s or a master’s degree in marine engineering or a related field.

In some countries, a license may be required to work aboard a vessel.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Ship assistant engineer is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Ship assistant engineer career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to ship assistant engineer.

ship duty engineer
marine chief engineer
deck officer
ship captain
vessel engine tester

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of ship assistant engineer. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of ship assistant engineer with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

maritime water transport general manager
aerodynamics engineer
transport technology vocational teacher
chief fire officer
naval architect

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of ship assistant engineer.

  • Operation of different engines: Know the characteristics, maintenance requirements and operating procedures of various kinds of engines such as gas, diesel, electrical, and engines with steam propulsion plants.
  • Electrical systems used in transportation: Understand the functioning of electrical systems, their specifications, and application in operations and systems for the transportation of freight and people.
  • Principles of mechanical engineering: Understand principles of mechanical engineering, physics, and materials science.
  • Regulation on the discharge of raw materials into the sea: Know environmental regulations for the discharge of raw materials into the sea; ensure the use of chemical disinfection and dechlorination to produce a clean and safe effluent suitable for discharging at sea.
  • Global maritime distress and safety system: The internationally agreed-upon set of safety procedures, types of equipment and communication protocols used to increase safety and make it easier to rescue distressed ships, boats and aircraft.
  • Engine components: Know the different engine components, and their operation and maintenance. Understand when repairs and replacement should be undertaken.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of ship assistant engineer.

  • Operate diesel propulsion plants: Operate diesel and gas turbine propulsion plants including related machinery, such as auxiliary boilers, auxiliary engines, incinerators, air compressors, fuel and fuel oil purifiers.
  • Manage vessel engines and systems: Manage main engines (steam, gas or diesel), refrigeration systems, and any other equipment in the vessel’s engine system.
  • Moor vessels: Follow standard procedures to moor vessels. Manage communication between the ship and the shore.
  • Operate vessel engine room: Operate and maintain the engine room of vessels. Operate the main engine room where the engine and propulsion machinery are located.
  • Operate sewage treatment plants on ships: Operate sewage treatment plants in ships, oversee plant maintenance, understand the mechanical functioning of the machine and comply with regulatory mandates of materials discharge to the sea.
  • Perform routine maintenance of ship engines: Perform routine maintenance tasks on all ship engine systems; monitor engines to ensure they function within standard operating parameters.
  • Provide support in vessel machinery systems: Provide support based on knowledge of maritime operations, vessel assurance, and machinery systems.
  • Repair vessel mechanical systems: Repair mechanical systems of vessels while on-board. Ensure that vessel malfunctions are repaired without affecting the voyage in progress.
  • Prepare engine room for operation: Prepare and start main engine and auxiliary engines; prepare machinery in engine room prior to departure; know and follow starting procedures according to checklist.
  • Manage ship electrical systems: Operate and maintain the electrical components of ships and the electrical distribution system. Know the various load circuits in case of system malfunction. Repair electrical systems in the event of damage or malfunctioning.
  • Maintain vessel inventory: Keep an up-to-date inventory for a vessel, including information on spare components, oil and fuel. Determine the amount of fuel that will be needed for a voyage; ensure that sufficient amounts of fuel are on board at all times.
  • Use different types of fire extinguishers: Understand and apply various methods of firefighting and various types and classes of fire extinguishing equipment.
  • Use maritime English: Communicate in English employing language used in actual situations on board ships, in ports and elsewhere in the shipping chain.
  • Help prepare lifeboats: Assist sailors in preparing lifeboats for the journey and provide engineering knowledge for the maintenance and repair of lifeboats.
  • Perform bunkering: Perform bunkering, the process of supplying fuels to ships for their own use. Ensure sufficient amounts of fuel for the duration of the journeys.
  • Unmoor vessels: Follow standard procedures to unmoor vessels. Manage communication between the ship and the shore.
  • Maintain vessel engine room: Maintain the engines and engine room equipment of a vessel. Conduct pre-checks prior to departure and ongoing examinations during the voyage.
  • Perform routine lube oil tests: Conduct routine tests of lubrication oils in engineering systems and water separation systems.
  • Operate fire extinguishers: Understand the operation of fire extinguishing equipment and fire extinguishing techniques.
  • Manage on-board water systems: Operate and maintain on-board water-cooled engineering systems.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of ship assistant engineer. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • International Maritime Organisation conventions: Know International Maritime Organisation (IMO) conventions in order to maximise the efficiency and safety of international shipping.
  • Physics: The natural science involving the study of matter, motion, energy, force and related notions.
  • Maritime transportation technology: Understand maritime transportation technology and stay up-to-date with the latest findings in the field. Apply this knowledge in operations and decision-making while on-board.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of ship assistant engineer. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Act reliably: Proceed in a way that one can be relied on or depended on.
  • Apply vessel engine regulations: Understand the regulations regarding the vessel engines and apply those regulations in engine maintenance and operation.
  • Advise on maritime subjects: Provide information and advice on maritime laws, vessel registration, and safety regulations.
  • Detect malfunctions in engines: Detect and effectively respond to machinery malfunctions. Take actions in order to prevent material damage; practice damage control.

ISCO group and title

3151 – Ships’ engineers

  1. Ship assistant engineer – ESCO
Last updated on January 17, 2023